Cyprus has appealed for international help to tackle a huge wildfire described by officials as the worst in the country’s history. The blaze, fanned by strong winds, is spreading through the southern Limassol district and has forced the evacuation of several villages.
Dozens of properties have been damaged but no casualties have been reported. Cyprus has been experiencing a week-long heatwave, with temperatures reaching up to 104 Fahrenheit.
Experts said that climate change is expected to increase the frequency of extreme weather events, such as heatwaves. However, linking any single event to global warming is complicated.
The Cypriot authorities requested assistance from the European Union and Israel after the wildfire intensified while burning in an area north of the cities of Limassol and Larnaca. Firefighters are now racing to prevent the blaze from crossing a mountainous region and ripping through the Machairas Forest.
Meanwhile, President Nicos Anastasiades said it was a very difficult day for Cyprus and the priority was for no loss of life. He thanked Greece and Israel for pledging to send firefighting planes to the Mediterranean island. The aircraft are expected to arrive overnight.
Italy has also sent planes to help. The European Commission’s head of crisis management, Janez Lenarcic, said a co-ordinated response was underway with aerial firefighting capacity being mobilised.